Our plans are in ruins, Serbs admit

June 14, 2006

BILLERBECK, Germany, June 14 (Reuters) - Serbia & Montenegro assistant coach Goran Stevanovic said the withdrawal of Nemanja Vidic had left his defensive plans in ruins.

The centre back, who missed the 1-0 Group C defeat by Netherlands through suspension, is out for the rest of the tournament after injuring his knee in training on Monday.

'It took a while to build that defence on Vidic and we can't rebuild it overnight,' Stevanovic told a news conference on Wednesday ahead of the match with Argentina in Gelsenkirchen on Friday.

'We have a clear vision of what it should look like against the Argentines but we have to wait and see whether it works. We'll try to make life difficult for them.'

A makeshift defence with Nenad Djordjevic at right back looked shaky against Netherlands. Coach Ilija Petkovic is likely to prefer Igor Duljaj in that position with Goran Gavrancic moving into Vidic's slot in the centre.

Up front, 32-year-old Savo Milosevic may be dropped for towering striker Nikola Zigic, whose aerial strength appears to be Serbia's best chance against a younger and more talented Argentina.

'We have to avoid situations in which they are clearly the better side and try to exploit our own strengths as much as we can,' said Stevanovic.

'It won't be easy but our bags are not packed yet and we don't plan to take an early flight home.'

The Serbs need to avoid defeat to keep alive any realistic hopes of progressing, with the Argentines enjoying the cushion of a 2-1 opening win against Ivory Coast.

Vidic said beating Argentina was a difficult task.

'They have superior skill and overall they are an even better team than the Dutch,' he said.

'They are not invincible, though, and I am confident the lads will play their hearts out to win.

'I feel terrible being sidelined and unable to help. I thought my leg had come off when I got injured but the scan showed it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought.'